Eden – Smock Alley – Review by Frank L.
Eden written by Eugene O’Brien – Production by Little Shadow Theatre Company + Unravel Productions
Until July 1st
In 2001, Eden was first performed in the Peacock Theatre in Dublin. It transferred to the Abbey and onto the Arts Theatre London. It also played in the Edinburgh festival and New York’s Tribeca festival. It has had several revivals. It is clearly a successful play but now discussions are mainly about how well it has weathered the passage of time, as Ireland has changed much in the intervening years.
The play is centred on a couple in their thirties who married in their twenties, live in a small provincial Irish town, have two children and now find their marriage with little sparkle. The action takes place over a weekend. Breda (Carolyn Bracken) has taken positive steps to bring a bit of romance into the marriage by shedding a load of weight. Billy (Michael O’Kelly) has noticed the change but he, delusional, fantasises about being a “rock hard” twenty year old as he props up the bar in various hostelries.
The structure of the play is a series of monologues by Billy and Breda. The simple set consists of a bar counter in front of which Billy holds court and a large red, armless chair upon which Breda lounges. They are separated from each other and never touch. Breda does don a pair of high heels as she clatters out into the night when she fantasises everything will be restored to normal between herself and Billy. Their distance from each other is highlighted by the lighting which switches from one to the other as each speaks. It also permits entry into their individual processes. The script has no dialogue between them. Just two individuals recounting the events of a weekend from their perspectives. One of the strengths of the play is that both of them introduce you to their immediate circle of friends and acquaintances so that you come to know the milieu in which they breathe.
There are references in the script to the golfing sporting stars of yesteryear, Seve Ballesteros and Lee Trevino, and the classical flautist James Galway, “the man with the golden flute”. These time-date the piece as do some references to certain television personalities and shows. Naturally there is no reference to the internet and mobile phones. So it seems a little quaint that Breda increases her sexual knowledge from a book a friend has given her. However this does not diminish the central tenet of the play – the different angst Billy and Breda experience as they negotiate the changes that have taken place in their fracturing relationship.
Bracken and O’Kelly are well matched as the two protagonists. Each face a challenge given the monologues which they must recite but both of them do it convincingly. Sadly floundering marriages will remain a constantly relevant topic notwithstanding economic booms or bust, or the arrival or disappearance of various bits of technology. This play conceived before the Celtic Tiger, remains as vital and relevant today.